Eric Chris’s Study – Not having transit is more environmentally sustainable than having transit in Vancouver
Eric Chris, sent the following to all local newspapers and municipal governments. It seems, TransLink and our regional transit planners may have it all wrong.
To view the study in its entirety, please click on the link below.
Transit in Metro Vancouver, Canada recently won the gold award from APTA (American Public Transportation Association) for environmental sustainability in North America. Unfortunately, we’ve reached the point where not having transit is more environmentally sustainable than having transit. Too bad APTA doesn’t give out awards to drivers for sustainable commuting.
About-Us/Media/2011/September/ TransLink-Wins-Gold-For-Its- Sustainability-Performance. aspx
Attached are calculations showing that not having transit in Metro Vancouver would most certainly not increase road congestion and would most definitely not result in increased air pollution or carbon emissions. These calculations have been verified by third party professional engineers.
They have been received by the engineering association in the province of British Columbia, Canada (APEGBC) and are not in dispute. If driving is more sustainable than transit in Metro Vancouver, driving also has to be more sustainable than transit in other cities which did not win the award for sustainability in North America.
Transit moving people who don’t drive and who really depend upon transit to go about their daily lives in their immediate community provides a valuable public service, and I truly do support it. Transit intended to lure drivers onto transit to increase ridership without any regard for its social and environmental effects does society a disservice and is counter productive.
Fast transit such as the 99 B-Line (rapid bus) and the Expo SkyTrain line intended to put drivers onto transit in Metro Vancouver makes road congestion and air pollution worse. Research shows that creating more road space increases driving. This same research shows that putting drivers onto transit does the same thing.
In other words, transit frees up road space to attract new drivers or makes existing drivers, drive more (U of T, 2009). This paradox has foiled attempts by politicians hoping to use transit to reduce road congestion. Fast transit only increases transit costs and income taxes.
Fast transit allows people to live farther from their work, school or destination. It subsidizes the cost of living of people moving to the suburbs to raise a family in a spacious home – for them to ride transit long distances from their home. It also results in urban sprawl creating more demand for roads, water mains…. power lines.
Ambitious individuals seeking personal gain are using transit as the catalyst for the development bonanza arising from the urban sprawl along major transit-trunk lines concentrating transit users along a few major transit corridors but taxpayers end up paying increased personal taxes for the new billion dollar transit lines, in particular, to make it happen. It is interesting to note that the fast transit catering to the urban sprawl is not decreasing the requirement for roads and is in effect the impetus for new roads to the many distant developments having garages for the vast majority of people who will not use transit.
This in fact leads to increased driving as drivers making up the majority of residents in the new developments have to travel farther from the distant developments to the city center or elsewhere. Urban sprawl induced through the increase in travel speed is explained by the Marchetti effect:
“Marchetti showed that Berlin’s expanse grew according to a simple rule of thumb: the distance reachable by current technologies in thirty minutes or less. As travel speeds increased, so too did the distance traversable and the size of the city.”
All in all, transit to make developers money or to subsidize the cost of living of individuals isn’t the goal of transit. Perhaps a story on how transit no longer reduces road congestion, improves air quality or reduces carbon emissions might be enlightening to your readers and politicians funding transit under the mistaken notion that it benefits society to put drivers onto transit.
Fast transit expands the city. When transit users with cars aren’t taking transit, they are driving greater distances and more often. TransLink formed in 1999 in Metro Vancouver is a botched attempt to solve road congestion with transit. Fast transit by TransLink has worsened road congestion and air pollution.
After only five years of fast transit by TransLink, trips by drivers exploded to 62% from 57%, an increase of 150,000 drivers. TransLink operating transit in Metro Vancouver and in a desperate panic offered late night transit until 3:30 am to UBC, for example, and handed out cheap bus passes (presently $30 monthly cost for unlimited travel by university students compared with $170 monthly cost for unlimited travel by other transit users) to university students to offset the increase in trips by drivers.
This reduced the percentage of trips by drivers to what it was before fast transit but did not take the cars off the roads. In Metro Vancouver, demand for transit is saturated and more fast transit such as sky train or rapid bus transit isn’t going to change the percentage of trips by drivers to any extent.
Eric Chris, PE